Know your rights
Generally, when you buy products or services privately you can’t cancel the contract easily and you have limited legal rights. Private sales aren’t covered by the Consumer Guarantees Act or the Fair Trading Act.
You do have rights if the seller misled you, they don’t have a right to sell the products, or the item is seriously faulty or unsafe.
Remedies under the Sale of Goods Act
You may be able to get a full or partial refund, or compensation under the warranties implied in the Sale of Goods Act. Your choice of remedy depends on how serious the problem is.
The product must:
- match either the sample shown or the description given by the seller
- be sold at a reasonable price if this has not been agreed beforehand
- be delivered within a reasonable time if no timeframe was agreed beforehand and delivery is part of the sales contract.
The seller also must have good title, which means the right to sell those products.
If you are entitled to a refund, it should be in cash (not a credit note). You can choose to accept a replacement or repair instead of a refund or compensation.
But, a seller can also state that the Sale of Goods Act doesn’t apply. They can state this in the contract at the time of sale or in the website terms and conditions. Look out for a written statement that says ‘No other warranties either express or implied by law are made with respect to these products’.
Electrical appliances and other regulated products
Electrical appliances must be safe even when sold second-hand by a private seller under the Electricity Act. Get them checked out by an expert or qualified person if you can.
Also, certain regulated products, even if second-hand, must comply with Product Safety Standards and Unsafe Goods Notices under the Fair Trading Act.
Read Product safety and consumer information standards to find out more.
Making a claim for breach of contract
You may be able to make a claim to the Disputes Tribunal for breach of contract under the common law rules for contracts and obtain compensation.
Read Changing contracts or quotes to find out more.
False or misleading statements by the seller
If a seller makes a false or misleading statement, you can cancel the contract or claim compensation under the Contractual Remedies Act if:
- the false or misleading statement was serious
- you were persuaded to buy the products based on the statement.
Read False and misleading advertising or trading to find out more.
If you bought something and the seller still owes money on it, the creditor may be able to repossess the products if:
- the item was worth more than $2,000 when the seller originally bought it or used it as security to take out a loan
- you knew about the security interest when you bought the products.
If the creditor does repossess and sell the products, you may be able to make a claim against the seller for a breach of the Sale of Goods Act, if you were not told about the security interest.
Buying second-hand from a business
Under the Consumer Guarantees Act (CGA), you have more legal rights if you buy from a second-hand dealer or a charity shop than if you buy from a private seller. However if you received items from a charitable organisation and the main purpose is for your benefit, then you are not covered by the CGA guarantees.
Anyone in business who deals in second-hand products or scrap metal has to be licensed, apart from charity shops. To find out if a business has a licence, check the public register of the Licensing Authority of Second-hand Dealers and Pawnbrokers (external link) on the Ministry of Justice website.
You can expect any second-hand products to be fit for purpose, safe, free from defects, look acceptable, and last for a reasonable amount of time. But you can’t expect them to be the same as new products. Whether they are of acceptable quality depends on how much you paid for the products, what you were told about them, and their general wear and tear.
If the item turns out to be faulty, you have the right to return it to the shop where you bought it and ask for a replacement, a repair or a refund. You can also claim compensation to cover any reasonable costs you incurred because of a fault or any late delivery, such as the cost of hiring a replacement item.
If you were misled by false information, you also have the right to cancel or vary the contract and claim compensation under the Fair Trading Act.